Recruitment Solutions in the Post-COVID Era
What will happen to the North American recruitment industry after COVID-19?
We are beginning to hear about social distancing restrictions being lifted in next five or six weeks through the end of May. Applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will open this coming Monday April 27 with cash payments to businesses following within weeks. The Government of Canada intends to introduce commercial rent waivers or subsidies—Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance—to help businesses cover rent for April, May, and June. Canadian recruitment agencies are looking ahead to what comes next beyond the usual impact from an economic shock—more temp and less perm.
Few of our clients expect to go back to business as usual after all this. Of course, everyone’s going to be a little more easygoing on work-from-home and there will be less emphasis on booking face-to-face meetings. But there is more fundamental change on the horizon as agencies grapple with a troubled global economy and a big shift in the nature of work.
Looking further ahead, the gig economy has come into its own since the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, some recruitment agencies have built full-fledged platforms that deliver on-demand, self-service flexible working and recruiting platforms. We can expect to see more of these kinds of solutions coming from the staffing world as agencies retool and reposition for the post-COVID era.
Technology firms both inside and out of our industry have come into the recruitment world as competitors. Indeed operates an on-demand permanent search service, “Indeed Hire”, which charges clients a flat-rate of as little as $2,000. Uber is moving into the temporary staffing space with its self-service “Uber Works” platform. Other specialist platforms have offer gigs for workers ranging dental hygienists to dog walkers. As the technology becomes more readily available, staffing agencies are uniquely-positioned to compete with these new players.
Over the last few years, forward-thinking agencies have been expanding their service offering beyond just the usual temporary staffing and permanent search. The shutdown will give many of their smaller competitors a nudge to do the same. So far, the workforce solutions industry in Canada hasn’t grown nearly as fast as it has in the USA and UK but that may well change as more firms enter the market. As established agencies shrink their back office and management teams and more experienced industry talent comes onto the market, I think we will see some innovative new businesses joining the industry.
Things are more stable for smaller perms-focused agencies. In the short-term, perm consultants will have to make do with a less support from marketing and research teams. Although permanent placements are down across the board right now, there’s a lot of work that perms teams can do to set themselves up for success. Many of my clients are using this time to get around to core workflow training—how to get the most out of their CRM and LinkedIn Recruiter licenses—as well as sales training to help consultants navigate the recovery and learn to effectively recruit remotely. Remember that a lot of less experienced consultants simply haven’t been through anything like this before, so don’t take for granted that they know how to handle it.
There will be a huge opportunity for recruitment consultants to help their clients tap into much larger talent pools once the lockdown is over. Some clients who have traditionally been restricted to considering candidates within a one hour commute of the office might now be able to offer enough flexibility to attract partially-remote workers from further afield. We are in a great position to be our clients’ eyes and ears in the talent market to help them assess where they can be more flexible after the shutdown.
All in all, change is coming. We as recruitment professionals can be an important resource to help our clients navigate it. Everyone’s going to have to make up some gaps in knowledge, whether it’s learning to cross-sell complex services or how to help clients create brand-new hiring strategies. But that’s what we’re here for, after all.